14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:13-16 NIV
As I read these verses today, it seems that the underlying thought is that Christ followers are to live lives that are to be BOTH sanctified (or set apart) by God, and not separated (or withdrawn) from the world.
BEING THE SALT
Salt, in the bible times, was used and needed to preserve meat and to keep it from decaying. In order for salt to be used however, it needed to be put applied on the meat. Salt is of no use as a preservative if it stands alone without any meat to preserve and flavor. Someone once said it this way, “The salt is no good if it never leaves the salt shaker, it is only a decoration to the kitchen table.” In Matthew 5, Jesus calls His followers to be the salt of the earth, and not just a fancy decoration for the kitchen table.
Salty Christians are needed because the world around us is rotting and decaying, and it is in desperate need of sold out Christ followers to bring flavor and preservation. It is true that a little bit of salt can flavor an entire dish! It only takes a little salt to bring the flavor of Christ to my workplace, my household, my neighborhood, and my world. Jesus says to get out of the salt shaker and be the salt that flavors the world for Him!
BEING THE LIGHT
In Jesus’ day the Jewish homes were generally dark. They may have had one small window to let light in during the day. They did not of course, have electricity and light bulbs like we have today.
Their lights consisted of a lamp which was a bowl filled with oil that had a wick. When light was needed, the lamp was placed on a lamp stand. Understandably, the most challenging part of having light in the house was in lighting the lamp (without any matches or cigarette lighters).
Because lighting the lamp was such hard work, no one wanted to let their light go out. It simply took too much work to get the wick lit again, especially if were at night. Like today however, when people went out of the house, it posed a danger to leave the wick burning. For safety reasons the lamp would be taken from its lamp stand and placed under an “earthen vessel” where it could burn risk free, and not be extinguished. As soon as someone returned home and needed light, they would take the light out from under the earthen vessel, and put the lamp on the stand.
Jesus knew that no one would be silly enough to expend the time and energy to light a wick, only to keep it hidden under a basket or earthen vessel ALL THE TIME. When people lit their wicks, they wanted to let their light shine to its greatest capacity.
The world needs Christ followers who are willing to shine the light of God in the darkest areas of life, not just in the light.
I can never affect the world for Jesus by becoming like the world. I can never impact the world for Jesus if I separate myself from the world. Jesus teaches that in order to be an effective Christ follower, I must be sanctified, yet not separated. I must be distinct from the world, but not distanced from the world. I must be sure that I am “shining the light.”
Not long ago, I read the following story about an old man whose job was to be on the railroad tracks using his light to warn the upcoming trains of the bridge that had been damaged.
That night as the train came and the man showed up with his lamp, but the train went soaring right past him without slowing down and ran right into the ditch. The man was taken to court because they wanted to know why the train did not pay attention to him as he was to warn them of the danger ahead. The man was by the judge, “Where you on duty on the night that the train had the accident?” He replied, “Yes sir. I was.” The judge asked, “Did you have your lamp with you?” The man replied, “Yes sir. I did.” The judge asked one last question. “Did you wave your lamp to the train?” The man replied, “Yes sir. I waved it at the train.” With that, the man was not held responsible for the accident. Later as the man went home he told his friend, “I am glad that the judge did not ask me if my lamp was on.”
The point is that to be an effective Christ follower, I must not just have a light, but I must SHINE the light! I have got to have the light ON!!!
Light is used to bring sight in the darkness. In order for a light to be effective, light needs to be used in the dark. Salt needs to be taken out of the shaker.
Lord Jesus, You never say that as a Christ follower I am to BECOME salt and light. You say that I already AM salt and light. You have transformed me. I must choose to get out of the salt shaker. I must step out from under the covering of the earthen vessel. You say that I am salt and a light, but I get to choose if I will fulfill or fail at that responsibility. Lord empower me to fulfill that calling. Amen.